The Whole Body Wellness Guide
Professionals around the state give advice for healthy living
Our experts: Dr. Janel Voelker and Dr. Kaylee Cooper of Coastal Wellness Family Chiropractic
The nervous system is a sticky web that attaches itself to each and every organ and muscle, transferring messages from the brain to different locations throughout the body. In a perfect world, all is in perfect harmony and we are healthy. But Drs. Janel Voelker and Kaylee Cooper of Coastal Wellness Family Chiropractic in Cape Elizabeth explain that life gets in the way— along with gravity and stress—and this web is disrupted. The result can be chronic pain or illness.
That’s where chiropractic comes in. Chiropractors make adjustments to realign the body, specifically the spine, so that the nervous system can get back on track. “My job is to make sure the nervous system is healthy, communication lines are open, and then the body can heal itself from within,” says Voelker.
Voelker picks up a vertebral column model and pushes one of the 33 vertebrae, so that it is the only one curving outward instead of inward. That one bone might connect to a gland, organ, or blood vessel, or, for example, the sciatic nerve. If it’s sciatica, the dislodged vertebra would disrupt transmissions from the central nervous system to the nerve and down the leg. The result would be a dull, aching pain down the back of the leg. Voelker says each patient is different, so in a regular appointment, she will check for any misalignment in the body and use chiropractic techniques to bring the bones and nerves back into place.
Patients walk through the doors to Coastal Wellness Family Chiropractic for a number of reasons. The most popular is back pain. “Chiropractic is very effective for back pain, but patients come for that then realize how good they feel in other parts of their body,” she says. Chiropractic also treats sensory issues such as chronic pain, fatigue, or headaches; any problems with motor nerves, which affect our balance; misalignment of autonomic nerves, which control glands and organs and affect asthma, digestion, cramping, sinus issues, headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, liver function, and more.
Emotions are linked to our nervous system as well, and often emotional tension can be released on the table when Voelker or Cooper dig into an area where a patient unknowingly has been storing emotions or stress. “They might cry on the table or call later and say that they can’t stop crying,” says Voelker. The release of these pent-up emotions is a good thing, as it signifies that a patient is on their way to healing. “These are the kind of miracles we see daily with function being restored to the body.”
Many fear the cracking noise that comes with adjustments; Voelker tells us the cracking is really just air being released from inside the joints. Still, there are a number of methods that chiropractors use to align patients. The most common image of chiropractic involves the doctor pushing and pulling on the body while the patient lies on a Thompson Table. Other less intense techniques include use of the handheld Activator, soft tissue work, and cranial work.
Voelker and her team have worked with patients from eight days old to 98 years old. The staff is trained in pediatrics, so they see little ones who might have asthma, ear infections, or problems with bed wetting. They also understand where the line is drawn in chiropractic care. “Of course, if you are allergic to peanut butter then we can’t do anything about it. You have to go to a family practitioner. We are not trying to replace that, but rather work in conjunction.”
Nutrition + Supplements
Our expert: Alison R. Fernald, RD, LD, CDE, is a nutritionist at Mid Coast Health Services in Brunswick. She spoke with us about superfoods — vitamin-rich, nutrient- packed foods—that can be found right here in Maine.
Blueberries are a good source of fiber as well as antioxidants such as vitamin C, which is vital to keeping our immune system strong. Blueberries also have some manganese, which is involved in making enzymes that help with the formation of connective tissue in our body.
The orange color of sweet potatoes means beta- carotene is present, an antioxidant that converts to vitamin A in the body, which is good for the skin, vision, and immune system. Sweet potatoes are a good source of potassium, which keeps our blood pressure normal and can also prevent muscles from cramping.
Swiss Chard is a powerhouse in the vegetable world. The leafy greens supply the body with carotenes for a strong immune system and are also a rich source of betalain pigments. They have been shown to provide antioxidant, anti- inflammatory, and detoxification support. This vegetable is packed with vitamins A, C, and K as well as iron, zinc, folate, and selenium.
Off the coast, Mainers have access to fresh, cold-water fish. Fish such as cod and haddock contain omega 3 fats that support heart and brain health. Fish is an easily digested protein that is a good source of vitamin B12 and iodine. As people age they can lose intrinsic factor, disrupting absorption of B12. Iodine is important to thyroid function, although too much iodine can be as bad as too little.
A half of a cup of steamed broccoli fills your vitamin C quota for the day. Vitamin C strengthens our immune system, can help heal wounds, and assists in iron absorption. Broccoli contains fiber, which aids in digestion, and isothiocyanates, which support detoxification.
Apples are a good source of dietary fiber. They also contain pectin, a type of fiber that keeps us fuller longer and may help soak up bad cholesterol. Pectin can promote regular bowel function for some people. Apples with the peel contain phytochemicals, one of which is called quercetin and provides our cardiovascular system with anti- inflammatory benefits. Other compounds in apples, called polyphenols, are being studied. They may help prevent spikes in blood sugar.
Strawberries, like all berries, have powerful flavonoids. Their special flavonoid content makes them a probable protector against inflammation, cancer, and heart disease. They have been found to lessen the activity of an enzyme, cyclooxygenase, which is linked to inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis, and cancer. Strawberries are sponges when it comes to pesticides, so buy these gems organic when possible.
Kelp is low in calories, carbohydrates, and fat, and high in iodine, which aids in thyroid function, when not overdone. Other substances in kelp can also decrease the inflammation process in the body. Kelp is a rich source of folate and magnesium. Folate is vital to making healthy DNA. Magnesium is known to function in over 300 enzyme systems in the human body, affecting virtually all aspects of metabolism.
Our expert: Greg Boucouvalas, pharmacist at Apothecary by Design
A well-formulated multivitamin helps to fill those nutritional gaps caused by an unbalanced diet or a drug-induced nutrient depletion. As a general rule, males and post-menopausal women should choose an iron-free formulation, unless there is a particular need for iron. In addition, gravitate toward multis free of dyes and common allergens such as dairy, eggs, soy, and gluten.
Probiotics nourish the digestive tract by adding good bacteria, two examples being lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. “What you eat has a huge impact on the bacteria that are growing in your gut. If you’re not eating a healthy diet then you are promoting the growth of not-so- friendly bacteria.” Taking probiotics won’t make up for the processed foods you had for lunch, but they will replenish and promote the growth of healthy bacteria that thrives on plant- based foods. The good news is that you can affect what is growing in your gut in a matter of a few days to a week. Probiotics can also come from fermented foods such as yogurt, sauerkraut, and kimchi.
“Typically if there are deficiencies in the body, it is with omega 3s,” says Boucouvalas. To cover omega 3s in the diet one should consume fish (preferably fatty fish) two to three times per week, as well as green leafy vegetables daily. Fish oils that contain omegas 3s are foundational to lowering inflammation within the body, and have a slight blood- thinning effect, thus decreasing the body’s tendency to form clots. They also support the health of eyes, heart, and brain.
Those living in Maine can only depend on sunshine contacting our skin to make vitamin D for about six months of the year, due to the sun’s low angle in the sky from late fall through early spring. Vitamin D helps with mood, immunity, and bone health.
Turmeric helps reduce inflammation. “The beauty of turmeric is that it modulates multiple enzymes and pathways that decrease inflammatory processes throughout the body,” says Boucouvalas.
N-Acetyl-Cysteine is known for its ability to support the body to detoxify unhealthy environmental compounds. Taking NAC is one of the most effective ways to increase levels of glutathione, arguably the body’s most important detoxifying enzyme. The supplement is especially important for those whose lifestyle or occupation may expose them to heavy metals such as cadmium, mercury, and lead, as well as the herbicides and pesticides that are widespread throughout the food chain.
B12 + MAGNESIUM
Acid-suppressing medicines, such as Nexium and Prilosec, are prescribed for acid reflux. Since they turn off the stomach’s ability to produce acid, they affect the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients, such as Vitamin B12 and magnesium. People who are on acid-suppressing medicines should take a sublingual or lozenge form of Vitamin B12 as well as a magnesium supplement.
Coenzyme Q10 (Co-Q-10) Statins work to lower cholesterol, but they interfere with the body’s ability to make Coenzyme Q10. Not having sufficient Coenzyme Q10 may affect a person’s energy level, and supplementation may alleviate the muscle pain associated with the use of statins. People who are taking statins should supplement with at least 100mg Coenzyme Q10, and taken with the fattiest meal of the day to enhance absorption. Co-Q- 10 helps produce ATP, our cells’ primary energy source. It is also considered a potent antioxidant.
Our expert: Rebecca Wing, LCPC, of Mindfulness Retreat Center of Maine
Rebecca Wing, LCPC, of Mindfulness Retreat Center of Maine in Saco, splits her meditation practice in two: formal and informal. Formal practice is the iconic image of meditation: sitting in a quiet setting, closing eyes, and letting go of distractions that arise in the mind. “In the formal practice of meditation, we are always learning how to focus the mind on something very specific. As thoughts arise, we recognize them without getting attached to their meaning or following long trains of thought, which draw us away from our initial point of focus,” says Wing. This practice allows those who meditate to cultivate a broader sense of awareness of the mind.
Informal practice is about bringing the practice of aiming and sustaining attention into daily lives. When the driver in front of you cuts you off, it’s natural to be agitated and fly into anger, which then causes stress on the body. With meditation, you can develop the ability to stop, take a breath, and recognize if you are exaggerating a situation. “Buddhist psychology calls it ‘cutting delusion at the root,’” says Wing. In informal practice, one can learn to work with negative reactions that arise in the body and mind in stressful situations.
Meditation doesn’t have to be sitting. Effective practices can include yoga, tai chi, body scan, and mindful walking. Use of nature is a common approach to mindfulness practice, and life in Maine means access to beautiful landscapes, whether they include fields, mountains, woods, or coastline. Wing suggests meditation in a quiet place for 20 minutes a day. “Twenty minutes a day takes a while to convince people because they don’t have the time. But if you do take time to meditate, you end up wasting less time during the day because you have developed your ability to center attention, and you will become more focused with each task,” says Wing. She recommends the morning as the best time of day because it’s quiet and the benefits of your practice can set a tone for the hours to come.
According to Wing, people who have a regular meditation practice are better at managing and responding to stress and maintaining focus. Physical benefits include reduced blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and enhanced immune function. “One of the biggest benefits of mindfulness practice is that you get better at slowing down automatic reaction to stressful events,” says Wing. Those who meditate are training the brain to know what it is like to imagine positive states. Then this positive outlook spreads into the corners of our lives, allowing us to know when life is good and we are all right. “Life in general is full of suffering. There is no euphoric state that we can reside in all the time, but we are trying to get better at paying attention to when things are all right.”
Seasonal Affective Disorder
Our expert: Dr. Luke Douglass, psychologist at Bates College
For the past two decades seasonal affective disorder (SAD) has been seen as a health condition that affects a great number of people. Maine residents are particularly susceptible because of the low amount of sunlight in the winter months. Beginning in late November and lasting until March or April, Dr. Luke Douglass sees patients in his office at Bates College who are experiencing a type of depression caused by lack of sunlight.
In the summer months, it’s easy to be outside in the warm weather. The sun keeps us supplied with vitamin D when we are at the beach, sitting on a bench for a lunch break, or dining alfresco. We need the sun—at least 30 minutes to an hour of it per day. But in the winter months, we nest, remaining inside due to harsh, cold winds or snowstorms that cause us to hibernate. We miss out on the direct sunlight that we soak up in the summer. “When I came to Maine from Iowa, it was striking how early dusk settled in in the winter. People further north experience SAD much more frequently,” says Douglass. A lot of people might write it off as winter blues, but SAD can be mild or severe. Symptoms can be depression-like and come and go with the change of seasons, says Douglass.
The science behind the disorder is that with less sunlight, our brains produce less serotonin, a chemical that wards off depression. Also, our brains produce melatonin when it’s dark out; too much can lead to depression. In the winter our sleep-wake cycle is also disrupted. We are sleeping later, for longer. Our internal clock is offset, and oversleeping can lead to less sunlight.
SAD can be treated. Eating right in the off-season is important. In winter many eat more carbohydrate-rich foods, which give quick boosts because they fuel serotonin. “We crave carbohydrates and sweets because we are trying to replenish that missing serotonin and both give short- term boosts of the chemical. However, overeating can lead to weight gain, which could cause issues with self-esteem and guilt,” says Douglass. He also advises, despite the conditions, to get outside, exercise, be social, and carry on with daily activities. “The impulse for some people is to isolate and pull away, but you need to reach out to people and stay connected,” he says.
Light therapy is another way to beat SAD. Light therapy boxes produce a light that mimics sunshine, which can assist in replenishing the missing serotonin. Douglass suggests 20 to 30 minutes in front of the light. Making it part of the daily routine can inspire consistency. “Try to find a place where you can set the light up and have a daily routine. Set it up in an office or in the kitchen. Get into the habit of using it and it will increase the effects,” says Douglass.
However, the above recommendations and therapies may not be enough for some people. Current research has found that ertain individuals are more susceptible to depression. “People who view themselves, the world, and the future in a negative light or those who personalize events,” says Douglass, tend to fall into depression and SAD easily. In these cases, Douglass suggests cognitive behavioral therapy along with the other treatments.
Our expert: Christopher Scott, PhD, University of Southern Maine’s department of Exercise, Health, and Sport Sciences
For the last 30 years, the American College of Sports Medicine recommended low- to moderate-intensity aerobic exercise three to five times a week for upwards of an hour. “It used to be all about aerobic exercise, too,” Dr. Christopher Scott says. When Scott worked as a laborer, he would work all day, then head to the gym, “I thought I had to get in that hour of exercise,” he says. But it’s different today. Through research we are beginning to understand how much and what type of exercise we actually need. Now exercise scientists recommend more high- intensity intermittent workouts.
Here’s how higher intensity exercise works. Plants store glucose as starch. We consume plants, then store that starch in our muscles and liver as glycogen. When you run or bike at high intensity, you are fueling your energy by using these pockets of glycogen. After a high-intensity workout, our bodies keep working to refill the emptied pockets in the muscles, and during this cool-down period is when we burn fat calories. “Doing high-intensity intermittent exercise certainly burns calories, but much of that comes during the restoration period as our body attempts to restore that glycogen, using fat calories to do so,” says Scott.
Recent studies are showing that we need to burn 150 to 200 calories a day through exercise. That would be accomplished by walking two miles. “You can go overboard in exercise and it will end up hurting you, not helping you. You don’t have to do as much as you once thought you did. Burning 150 to 200 per day—that is all you need to do in terms of health benefits,” says Scott. A laborer who is working in the field all day is probably getting enough exercise on the jobsite. New studies, specifically about Japanese-founded Tabata training, show that individuals gain all the long-lasting health benefits from long workouts in just four minutes of intense exercise. “But that’s if you are already in really great shape,” Scott clarifies.
The best forms of exercise include high-intensity intermittent activity—for example, sprinting for a minute, jogging for two. This kind of interval training burns more calories than steady-state aerobic exercise, such as running at the same speed for an hour. In each workout, there has to be a point where the body is being challenged, whether by using more weight or reps or by sprinting on a bike.
The challenge with exercising and pushing our bodies to be healthier is staying motivated, and, according to Scott, interested. Trends will come and go, and the important thing is to choose something that works for the individual. Swimming, biking, hiking, running—they are all equally healthy; effectiveness is a matter of consistency and interest. Variety is important, too—change your route, time of day that you work out, keep things fresh and interesting. “Get creative with your workouts. There are so many kinds of activities that you can do, and you have to stay motivated. You can fall into dull routines and some people can handle that, but others might quit or reach a plateau.”
There’s more to exercise than what meets the eye. “We are recognizing that high levels of glucose and fat may contribute more to heart disease than fat and cholesterol,” says Scott. While restoring glycogen to the muscles, the body takes glucose out of the bloodstream to refuel the muscles, thus decreasing chances of heart disease. “But there’s so much that we still don’t know. Exercise can help a lot. Yet look at a list of human ailments such as smoking or bad eating habits, and exercise can only help so many of them. We still don’t have all the answers, but we are indeed scratching the exercise-health surface,” says Scott.
Our experts: Zev and Amber Myerowitz of Cape Chiropractic and Acupuncture
At Cape Chiropractic and Acupuncture in Cape Elizabeth Amber Myerowitz sits in her office and uses the Meridian Energy Analysis Device. It is a computer with an attached probe that she uses to test her patients’ points along the 12 meridians in the body: lungs, large intestine, stomach, spleen, heart, small intestine, bladder, kidney, pericardium, triple warmer, gallbladder, and liver. She also looks at the tongue (which serves as a map to the internal organs), and thoroughly palpates the pulse. After the tests, a snaking graph wiggles its way across the screen through greens, yellows, and reds, the latter signifying low energy and possibly areas of chronic pain. Referencing the information gathered from the test, Amber asks her patients whether they have been sleeping right, eating enough protein, experiencing high stress, craving sweets, and so on. “I’m often asked if I am a psychic,” laughs Amber. What she’s actually doing is reading a new-age device that follows an old Japanese method, Ryodoraku measurement, which can sense deficiencies of a micro-current, or life force, that runs through the body, known as qi.
“A great way to picture qi is, where there is blood there is qi. They flow within each other,” says Amber.
Acupuncturists and those who practice traditional Chinese medicine believe that qi flows through our bodies and when blocked can cause pain or illness. To heal a blockage, Amber consults some of the 500 strategic points along the meridians, each corresponding to a different part of the body. She then stimulates the points using acupuncture needles. By stimulating each point, Amber says she can restore energy to that area of discomfort, and then the body heals itself. “Your body wants to feel good, so acupuncture gently stimulates that response for you and pushes it in the direction toward mental and physical wellness. So if there is a blockage in a meridian or channel, by stimulating a point and drawing qi to that area it can heal itself,” explains Amber.
On the ear alone there are about 60 auricular points that connect to the organs in your body. The most well-known auricular treatment is called the National Acupuncture Detoxification Association protocol, which is clinically proven to be effective for addictions and behavioral health. Amber gently demonstrates a point on me, pushing a tiny needle into my arm. I don’t feel much, but I sense a warmth gathering around the area of the needle. The point in my forearm, she tells me, is connected to my digestive system.
Amber runs the practice with her husband, Dr. Zev Myerowitz. The young pair contrasts perfectly. Dr. Zev, whose wheelhouse is chiropractic, is full of energy. Sitting on an exercise ball for the interview, he tells me that with his primary patient base his focus is on treating pain and chronic injuries through the removal of scar tissue and fixated joints. Then Amber, who is calming, soft-spoken, and nurturing, tells me that through her acupuncture, she does the repairing. They call their teamwork breaking and building. Yin and yang, I think.
While Dr. Zev sees a number of athletes, Amber sees female patients for fertility and neuro-emotional conditions such as stress, anxiety, depression, and insomnia. She also sees patients for cosmetic acupuncture using needles on the face to decrease wrinkles and blemishes. They each also see patients for chemotherapy support. I quickly come to understand that their list is endless.
However, most patients consult them for a chronic condition, and their philosophy, like many acupuncturists, is to understand the root of the problem. Dr. Zev explains that if a patient is having a headache, it could be temporarily resolved with medication, but what is the root of the discomfort? He explains that, while each patient is different, it could be because the upper cervical vertebrae are restricted. An adjustment or acupuncture treatments can stabilize or restore musculoskeletal movement, often immediately. “The body has a remarkable way of naturally healing itself, and so if you go and take an aspirin, sometimes that’s just masking what the real root of the problem is,” says Amber.